Edward Hospital clinic helps kids with cleft palates

Submitted August 22, 2011 4:42PM


Story Image

As the Children’s Facial Center of Edward Hospital celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall, one of its patients, 5-year-old Joseph Anderson, marks his own milestone — his first day of kindergarten.

Joseph was born with a cleft of his lip and palate (roof of the mouth). This cleft or opening occurred when his lip and palate did not properly close early during his mother’s pregnancy.

Clefts of the lip or palate are the most common group of birth defects in the U.S., occurring in one in 700 live births. A cleft deformity left untreated can result in problems with speech and teasing by peers.

Joseph’s parents, Joanne and Mike Anderson of Wheaton, learned of their baby’s cleft when Joanne had an ultrasound 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

“When we got the news, we were afraid of the unknown,” Joanne said. “Fortunately, we were quickly assured that this was a correctable problem.”

After considerable research, the Andersons selected Edward’s Children’s Facial Center, which treats facial clefts and other anomalies.

“We met with Dr. Laura Semba, the medical director at the Children’s Facial Center, before our baby was born. We liked how the professionals there operate as a true team and focus on a child’s specific needs,” Joanne said. “She set up appointments so we could see her, the ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor), the speech pathologist and the pediatric orthodontist at the same time.”

Dr. Semba, a plastic surgeon, likes to meet with parents as early as possible.

“Our team is sensitive to how stressful it is to learn your baby has any kind of problem,” Dr. Semba said. “Parents need to know what to expect, and we want to assure them that cleft defects are typically very treatable.”

Dr. Semba; Dr. Jeanette Israel, a geneticist; Judith LeDuc, a speech pathologist and other specialists originally formed as a cleft palate team in 1993. Dr. Semba re-established the group at Edward in 2001.

Today, they’re joined by Dr. Joseph Donzelli, an ear, nose and throat physician who specializes in head and neck surgery; his audiologist and an orthodontist. A pediatric dentist, social worker and nutritionist also routinely participate in the Children’s Facial Center’s multidisciplinary team care. Nancy Pizzurro is the team’s nurse navigator.

Dr. Semba repaired Joseph’s cleft lip when he was three months old, and his cleft palate at 15 months. Now, Joseph is only monitored by the team. He’ll need braces and gum surgery when he’s older.

“Now our son is a happy, confident little boy looking forward to kindergarten,” Joseph’s mom said. “There were hurdles, but there is a solution for each child.”

To learn more about the Children’s Facial Center, call 630-527-7325, or children’s services at Edward Hospital, visit www.edward.org/children.

Health Matters is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.